Just Us Two, A Couple Close Gamers Weigh In... Our experiences with 2-player games (couples: husband versus wife)
Diane Close
United States
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Much of the gaming that my husband, Paul, and I do is just the two of us. I come from a checkers and Euchre background, while he played D&D and a lot of computer games in high school and college. I’m a fan of strategy, which I define as planning ahead one or more paths to success, whereas my husband likes tactical, which he defines as responding to the current situation. We prefer to play games that reward strategy (though not too much), yet are still interesting on a turn by turn level, and we’re not adverse to a bit of luck either. If you can wrap all that in a great theme, or nice bits, then it’ll be a runaway best seller with us! We play to have fun, not necessarily to win.

Here's a bunch of games we've played as a couple and how they fared for us... Our comments on these games reflect 2-player gameplay only. We’ll rate our preferences separately: him, her and if the game works well for couples.

Rating legend:
= like it on occasion
laugh = love it
yuk = don’t like it
= neutral

Feb. 8, 2009, edit: This is a snapshot of our gaming days from 2004 to 2006. A lot of these games are still available, so I’ll leave this list open for reading but close it to comments. Thanks, all, for suggesting games like Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, Race for the Galaxy, and Zooloretto. We definitely do play those now, but they weren’t available back then. I have no plans to update this list with newer games at this time.
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26. Board Game: Clocktowers [Average Rating:5.71 Overall Rank:5521]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a simple and fast filler for two players. It can be quite strategic at times, even though you only play to your own hand. You need to watch carefully what others are doing and plan accordingly. If you want something with more depth, my gaming group recommends Palazzo as something that plays similar to but deeper than this. I haven’t played the latter, so I can’t comment on how it compares. I like Clocktowers for what it is: a fast and fun little filler that is trickier than it looks.

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Couples-
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27. Board Game: Coloretto [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:373]
Diane Close
United States
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The 2-player variant for this game plays surprisingly well! It’s a nice little card game that balances strategy and luck. It’s very pretty and plays quickly and leaves you wanting to play just one more.

Him-
Her- laugh
Couples- laugh with tweaks.
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28. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:543]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a really neat, unique wagering game that has you spreading your bets and playing the odds to help creatures survive to the next level. Each creature has individual skills and abilities that can affect game play, plus there are additional cards that can influence things too. You need to balance your bets and your cards to collect the most influence in the end, all while trying to hold off opponents who are out to either kill your favorites or take them over for themselves.

We find this plays well with two and even better with more.

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Couples- laugh
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29. Board Game: Counting Zzzzs [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:8544]
Diane Close
United States
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We LOVE this game as a two-player game! It’s a clever little card game with lots of opportunity to ruin your opponent’s best laid plans, and sometimes your own too! It’s cutthroat and amusing at the same time. Your “dreams” get weirder and weirder yet the game play remains balanced. It’s extremely good for creative people! There is luck to the card draw, but there’s a lot of strategy in card placement too. Sometimes we even get caught up in the story-telling aspect and will play a card just to complete an element rather than ruin our opponent. With more than two this game becomes too chaotic and can have problems with people ganging up on one player. With just two players it’s nicely balanced, creative fun that has us in stitches every time!

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30. Board Game: DaVinci's Challenge [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:8010]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a very pretty tile laying abstract that tests your pattern recognition abilities. It takes sharp eyes to play this game, and yet we find it relaxing with it’s pretty pattern formations. You can play this lightly, or you can play it hard and ponder every move – either way it’s enjoyable. While the end-game can be anti-climatic (merely an exercise in filling in the remaining spaces), it’s still good fun overall. Just don’t bump the board!

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31. Board Game: Dawn Under [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:2024]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a memory game, pure and simple, and we both agree that this one is the best we've ever played. It has excellent quality bits, great graphics, is full of tense plays and has a lot more going for it than you'd expect from this genre. We really enjoy this one with just two as with more players you have to remember more when it comes your turn. The gameplay here makes us bang our head in frustration and laugh out loud at the same time, and it doesn't outstay its welcome. It's a really nice step up from Eloise Game.

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32. Board Game: Diamant [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:694]
Diane Close
United States
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This is currently my husband's favorite game! It plays better with more players than with two, but if you like bluffing, push your luck games then you should take a look at this one too. Because your winnings are hidden, unless you're very good at keeping track of what your opponent has won so far then this is still a clever exercise in knowing when to fold 'em.

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33. Board Game: A Dog's Life [Average Rating:5.52 Overall Rank:8649]
Diane Close
United States
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This is too much a solitaire game when played by two players using one dog each. It’s more chaotic and enjoyable using two dogs each, but even then it still lacks something. We play this one strictly for the theme. Where else can you pee on a game board and get away with it? Overall it’s a neat idea but the theme does not make the game.

Him- yuk
Her-
Couples- yuk
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34. Board Game: Doom: The Boardgame [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:555]
Diane Close
United States
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This game is intense! "Relentless" is a good way to describe it. There are lots of decisions to be made and some are more obvious than others. Yes there's lots of dice but there's strategy too. The tension just doesn't let up in this one, so be careful that you know that before playing it with your spouse. My husband loves computer “sneak shooters” and squad tactics games, so he thinks this one is a blast. I’m not as convinced as he is, but we’re working on a cooperative variant that we both find enjoyable. Even he agrees that playing the “baddie” gets tiring after a while.

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Couples- ; possibly better with tweaks.
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35. Board Game: Doom: The Boardgame Expansion Set [Average Rating:7.57 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.57 Unranked]
Diane Close
United States
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This is an expansion for Doom: The Boardgame that addresses a number of problems with the base game, and provides a great way for two players to play against each other instead of requiring a "monster master" against one player. Games are long and brutal and highly tactical, but if you like intense battles you'll enjoy this one! I love the new monsters, especially the eyeball creatures. They mostly replace existing ones from the base set, rather than are new introductions, but that means less for me to learn.

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36. Board Game: The Downfall of Pompeii [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:326]
Diane Close
United States
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Go Hot Lava Death! This is a light, 3 part race game that starts sedately enough with populating a city and soon moves to strategic chaos as tries to remove as many of their citizens as possible from the now-encroaching lava. The game offers some interesting strategic choices as well as some "take that" card and tile play possibilities. We really enjoy this as a light strategy filler! We think it works as well with two as with more.

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37. Board Game: Dracula [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:1916]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a strange little game. It’s reminiscent of the kids’ game Battleship with additional movement and bluffing elements. In the end game play is more about bluffing than memory, really. Van Helsing's cards are a bit too powerful and even so the game can go on a bit too long. The colored barriers add some tactical depth but also add to the game's length when deployed well. If there was a limit on bluffing, or a limit on time (maybe only twice through the action card deck then decide the game), I might rate this one higher. It offers a good atmosphere, but it’s weak on playability in my opinion. If you’re both good at hand management and bluffing, then this game will result in an endless draw until Van Helsing’s more powerful cards simply force the issue.

Him- yuk
Her-
Couples-
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38. Board Game: Dream Factory [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:381]
Diane Close
United States
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We have the original German version of this game, Traumfabrik, with the appropriately themed music CD included. This game allows you to be a movie mogul back in the heyday of the “studio system” and put together blockbusters and cult favorites and everything inbetween. You do this by way of a clever auction system, that has the player who wins the bid giving the other players the money, not the bank. This means it works well for only 2 players too! You need to watch your opponent's creations carefully and manage your contracts, especially for the end-game. Don't overspend! There are many possible strategies and paths to victory which translates to good replay value!

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39. Board Game: DruidenWalzer [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:3347]
Diane Close
United States
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I love the mix of elements in this game. There's so much to keep track of that sometimes it makes my head spin! There's a lot more going on here than you'd think. It’s a really enjoyable spacial puzzle, not the usual math-y stuff, very similar to Mancala. The lovely artwork is beautiful to look at and the game is a joy to play. There’s and ebb and flow to it that’s moderately dependent on luck, but with a bit of strategic planning and more often just plain tactical play.

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40. Board Game: Dungeon Twister [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:542]
Diane Close
United States
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The gameplay here reminds me of Checkers combined with Stratego. It’s a very good game, very tactical, well-balanced and fun. There’s enough strategy to keep me happy, and enough tactical reacting to keep my husband happy too. It’s a hit with both of us!

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41. Board Game: Eloise Game [Average Rating:5.20 Unranked]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a kids' memory game that's cooperative too. You help each other find the guests in the hotel, and take them all up to the penthouse for a huge birthday party, before the clock strikes 6. If you do, then you all win. There are enough hotel doors to choose from that this game is moderately challenging (from a memory aspect) for adults to play as a filler. We’ll play it from time to time for variety. For a much more challenging memory game, check out Dawn Under.

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42. Board Game: Emerald [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:1640]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a very nice filler racing game, reminiscent of Cartagena. It plays quickly and is nicely tactical and scales well too. There is some luck, but mostly the game is full of simple but interesting choices. We think it’s just as much fun with two as with more and it’s a hit at our house!

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43. Board Game: Employee of the Month [Average Rating:5.22 Overall Rank:10417]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a good light bidding and set collection game with an office worker theme. It works as a fast-paced filler for two, though it does seem like there are too many cards. It also works well if you reduce the size of the deck. We liked the theme as the situations depicted hit home with the various workplaces we've both been in. You need to keep an eye on what your opponent is collecting, and know when to let them take a cheap trick and when to force them to bid more. This game is a nice counterpoint to Burn Rate.

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44. Board Game: En Garde! [Average Rating:5.82 Overall Rank:4589]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a silly little fencing-with-cards, take-that filler that attempts to duplicate a Hollywood-type sword fight. It can be a bit unpredictable in length, especially if you leave the pistol card in the deck, and there’s a lot of back-forth scoring too. Still, they did a pretty good job at all the terminology and fighting moves, and the humor is well done too. We enjoyed this one. If you’re into martial arts instead of fencing, then check out its sibling Kung Fu Fighting.

Him-
Her-
Couples-

P.S. This game comes in handy for settling our pirate game disputes too!
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45. Board Game: Familienbande [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:2375]
Diane Close
United States
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We have a blast with this fast-playing little card game about inbreeding and genetics among a bunch of people with questionable looks. You can play this quick and light, or you can get a lot more serious about promoting your secret trait and play slowly and carefully for maximum benefit. There’s more strategic play here than you’d think at first glance. Either way, it’s fun!

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46. Board Game: Flowerpower [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1697]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a beautiful game, much nicer looking than the pictures suggest. It has more strategy than it seems at first glance too. Yes there is luck of the draw, but you really have to think carefully to maximize future tile placements. Going for the largest plant bed isn't always the best strategy. The neutral zone provides a lot of strategic options too. The weeds, limited to three per game, offer just a touch of take-that defensive play. We like it for the puzzle element and its relaxing nature. This game makes a nice counterpoint to Ingenious: Travel Edition.

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47. Board Game: Funny Friends [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1196]
Diane Close
United States
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This game is really quite fun and somewhat realistic. It allows me to live vicariously and do things I’d never do in the real world. It has Chez Geek-style humor (a little cruder even), so it isn't for everyone. Even the two player version hums along nicely, and the auction mechanic works well too. It plays in a more quiet, relaxing manner than I expected, but I like that too. There's luck of the draw, but there's strategy too (when to change your goals, when to grab a card, when to bid up the price of a card, etc.). And where else can your own husband choose someone besides you to marry, have sex with, produce a child, and then run off to join a rock band and get away with it?

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48. Board Game: Get Hooked [Average Rating:5.89 Unranked]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a locally-made game that simulates lake fishing. The theme and well-researched cards make this a hit with anyone who’s into fishing. There’s a fair amount of luck of the draw, but also some strategy too in knowing when to play certain cards for maximum effect. If you know your cards and your fish, then this game can get nasty! It works for two but is better with more, and makes a good family game.

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49. Board Game: Give Me the Brain! [Average Rating:5.86 Overall Rank:3199]
Diane Close
United States
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I love the idea behind this game, but I must admit that it doesn’t work too well for just two. I should point out that it’s not meant to be played that way either, I just have a soft spot for it so I keep trying. With two players it’s too easy to hang on to the brain and never let go!

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50. Board Game: Gloom [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:1096] [Average Rating:6.43 Unranked]
Diane Close
United States
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I really liked this game, though the cards were difficult to read and use. Once you piled up more than three you really couldn’t see through the other layers. Still, I like the idea of playing happy events on a morose family to prevent them from fulfilling their “dreams”. Some of the cards are a bit too powerful in a 2-player game though. My husband didn’t like the novel cards, and thought the game play was too similar to other games we own, so he didn’t like it as much as me.

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